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A key House panel late Thursday gave the back of its hand to California's embattled high-speed rail program.

In another sign of high-speed rail's political travails, the House committee writing a massive transportation bill, included an amendment that prohibits new federal funds from going to California's proposed $98 billion project during the five-year life of the bill.

"I want to make sure that the money that comes to California goes to highway funding," Republican Rep. Jeff Denham said in an interview.

Denham, who has moved his California residence from Atwater to Turlock, offered the amendment during a long and sometimes contentious markup of the bill dubbed the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.

Denham's amendment, adopted by a 31-22 vote, marks the first and only time the word 'California' appears in the House transportation bill that started out at 847 pages. It was fought by Democrats, during a hearing that stretched more than 16 hours and ended at 2:45 a.m. Friday.

"I think it's a big mistake," Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said of Denham's total high-speed rail cutoff. "The high-speed rail authority is rapidly adjusting its program, looking for ways of significantly reducing the cost."


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